Update (6:55 PM): HockeyTownTodd has a suggestion: keep an eye on Jeremy Roenick tonight. Why? Six of his nine goals this season are game-winners. - Matt
Update (6:43 PM): Well, it looks like the goalie rotation has ended. Ansar Khan reports that Mike Babcock will go with the “hot hand,” Dominik Hasek, instead of Chris Osgood tonight.
I think Osgood’s getting the shaft a bit here given that his “poor” performances in his last two starts were due more to the Wings’ not playing in front of him than actual bad play. However, Hasek was in net when the Wings pulled out of their skid and looked good enough to get the nod in San Jose.
Apparently, Osgood will start in LA.
Khan also reports that the Eurotwins and Tomas Holmstrom will be together in warmups and perhaps throughout the game. Dallas Drake is out for the third straight game and Aaron Downey will take his place. - Matt
Update (3:15 PM): It has nothing to do with the game tonight, but Sharkspage’s PJ Swenson has posted a great interview with James Mirtle. Be sure to give it a read, if you have a chance. Wings fans will like James’ comments on the team near the end. - Matt
Tonight is the third of four games between the Detroit Red Wings and the San Jose Sharks. The Wings lead the season series 2-0 with wins October 18th (4-2) and October 26th (5-1). The Sharks will make the trip to Detroit for the final meeting on February 29th.
San Jose is 3-2-2 in 2008. They started off the year with a 3-2 overtime loss to Calgary, but rebounded with three consecutive wins. They started with a 3-2 decision over Columbus on the 5th, continued with a 3-1 win over Vancouver on the 10th, and finished the stretch by putting away the Leafs, 3-2. Since then, however, they have dropped three straight, including two in regulation. A road overtime loss to Anaheim the night after the win over Toronto kicked off the skid, which continued with games dropped in Phoenix and at home to Dallas on Tuesday and Thursday.
Tonight’s game is the second of a four-game homestand for the Sharks, who are 9-10-4 in HP Pavilion this season.
The Sharks are three points behind Anaheim for the lead in the Pacific Division and currently hold the fourth playoff spot in the West.
Milan Michalek leads the team in goals with 16, but has only 28 points to Joe Thornton’s 56. Thornton (15) and Steve Bernier (11) are the only other Sharks with 10 or more goals. Three players, Joe Pavelski, Jeremy Roenick, and Torrey Mitchell, have nine. Jonathan Cheechoo has just 6 goals and 13 assists.
Ryane CloweÂ (ankle) and Kyle McLaren (knee) are both on the IR for San Jose.
Evgeni Nabokov should get the start for the Sharks. He has a 2.10 GAA and .914 save-percentage this season, but posted a 4.49 GAA and .860 save-percentage over the two games against the Wings.
The Wings pulled out of a three-game nosedive on Thursday with a 3-2 shootout win over Vancouver. The game, while not perfect by any means, was a marked improvement over their performances in their three prior contests. The obvious negative was the fact that they blew a two-goal lead, as pointed out by HockeyTownTodd, but the team’s overall effort was such that the score could very well have been 6-2. Without Roberto Luongo’s stellar play or the fact that at least three Red Wing shots went off the crossbar or post, the game never would have gone into extra time. The blown lead is of course worrisome, but is just more evidence that the team still has some things to work on to get back to 100% form.
The lack of power play scoring is another area in which they need to see improvement, of course. I thought they did a better job of creating chances on the power play Thursday night than they have been doing lately, so we can only hope that they keep working at it and break out of that particular slump soon.
Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg have been in a bit of a slump themselves and have combined for just one goal since the Wings’ loss to Minnesota.Â They were somewhat more effective Thursday night, however, and are due for a big game. Expect Babcock to keep them together at even strength in hopes that they’ll spark each other out of this downswing.
No hard news on any roster changes, though the Freep does list Dallas Drake (knee) as questionable for tonight. If he can’t go, expect to see Aaron Downey for the third-straight game.
As for the lines, here are my projections:
And my projected defensive pairings:
As Todd suggested in the post linked to above, these pairings, incongruous as they may be, are probably an attempt by Babcock to acclimate the blueline to different combinations in preparation for the playoffs. He has been doing much the same thing with the forwards all season.
As per the goaltender rotation policy, Chris Osgood should get the start tonight.
For more of the Wings’ perspective, see Snapshots, Abel to Yzerman, HockeyTownTodd, Behind the Jersey, No Pun Intended, Red Wings Nation, yzerman is god, Detroit Hockey, LetsGoWings, and Winging It In Motown.
Tonight is an important game for the Wings as they would like to start off their road trip on the right foot. The Sharks are struggling lately, but they are looking at this game as a measuring stick and will no doubt be on top of their game. The Wings, on the other hand, will be looking to build on what they started Thursday night and will hopefully elevate their play rather than revert to that which led to their three-game skid.
As with Vancouver and Roberto Luongo, the Wings will be facing a slumping-yet-All-Star-caliber goaltender in the person of Evgeni Nabokov. If they put up 49 shots again tonight, let’s hope more than two of them make it into the net.